Friday, December 18, 2009

Fruitcake in Christmasville

Because I bake, each year around this time a few poor confuzzled souls will grab me by the upper arms, beseech me with widened eyes, and ask me to tell them, please, if there is, somewhere, somehow, some way a fruitcake recipe that doesn't suck butt.

To which I sadly reply, "No."

However, that does not mean one cannot successfully mix fruit and cake. You just have to stay away from those weirdly colored pieces of stained glass window shards masquerading as "fruit" that, when mixed with a batter of equally puzzling construction, results in something more appropriate to tossing at the heads of our New World Leaders at Climate Change Summits than actually imbibing at Christmastime with a steaming hot cup of Joe.

Non. What you want to make is THIS cake. I originally started making it a few years ago when I had a direct connection to fresh-off-the-tree Italian plums. You know, those little oval shaped, dark blue babies that look like Concord grapes on steroids and taste like all the angels in heaven disco dancing in your mouth? Mah, gawd, I loves me those plums. But my source has since dried up, so I moved on to using pineapple. Just. As. Tasty.

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3 cups white all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plain yogurt
Zest of one small orange
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
2 cups diced plums or pineapple cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Confectioners sugar for dusting tops of loaves

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Butter and flour two 9x5x2 loaf pans or spray with non-stick baking spray.

Wash and dry the plums and, leaving skin on, dice into 1/2 inch pieces. Alternatively, thoroughly drain a 14-ounce can of chunk pineapple and pat dry with paper towels. Place fruit in a separate bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of flour to coat. Set aside.

Sift together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside.

Measure out yogurt into glass measuring cup and mix in the lemon juice and lemon and orange zest. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down bowl in between additions. Alternate yogurt mixture with dry ingredients, mixing well and scraping down bowl in between each addition. Mix in orange liqueur. Then stir in fruit and nuts until evenly incorporated.

Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake in oven for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out completely clean. Let pans cool 10 minutes in pan before inverting onto a cooling rack. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, slice, and serve.

Since the base of this cake is essentially a pound cake, the result is a dense but moist crumb that actually is better the second day. Will keep at room temperature, wrapped tightly, for about 3-4 days, in refrigerator for 5-7 days, and in freezer for several months.

P.S. These are Italian plums. Smaller, more oval in shape, sweeter, and to me, tastier, than regular plums.